Some points of view during this time of uncertainty and turmoil
We’re amid a time period that will without a doubt go down as a key moment in history. The state of the country (and world) it is safe to say, is not what any of us expected, and life has changed in many ways. These changes do not exclude the music industry and artists in all stages of their career and it leaves many asking the question, should I release music right now? And it’s a really good question.
A pandemic that halted life, and a tragic death that sparked uproar has understandably affected the normal routine in which musicians work. It sparks questions that everyone from the largest artists to the most emerging have had to make decisions on.
Below we’ve collected some insight from artists, managers and industry experts on their thoughts on releasing music right now, in no particular order. We love what everyone is adding to this conversation. We’ve also included a Resources section highlighting our sources and some other conversations we’ve found on the subject.
Jay Gilbert, Digital Strategy at Label Logic:
We’re in an “always on” music business. I believe it’s imperative to continually engage your audience with compelling music, videos and dialogue. The release cadence could include singles, EPs and albums as well as a suite of videos (concept videos, lyric videos, pseudo videos, livestream videos, stripped down videos, tutorial videos, Ask Me Anything videos etc.)
Adrian Jean, Artist
It’s hard to make a decision for me and many of my friends who are artists for a number of reasons. On one hand you don’t want to be insensitive to the national and global issues that are at the forefront of almost every discussion while on the other you don’t want to be left in the dust by the many platforms that only push your songs when you are frequently releasing music that causes engagement. While we already know that if you don’t release anything at all then there will be no engagement from your fans/followers. However, you also run the risk of releasing a song that isn’t relative to the topic and therefore could result in a lack of success. It’s a catch 22 for real and not to be ignored. I personally have decided to schedule my next release for June 26. I chose to release a song called “Miss Me” that expresses the extreme frustration of having to deal with that dramatic partner that wants to bicker and fight about every-little-thing… Most of us have dated him/her. I did so because every friend that I have that lived with their partner before Covid-19 has left them while in quarantine or waiting for quarantine to end so that they can split. My release that follows right after will be one directly related to the Black Lives Matter movement. I would say to release but be cognizant of what you’re releasing. I.e. maybe don’t release a song talking about you on a private jet going to your friends massive party full of all white Americans while no one is wearing a mask. That is, of course, unless that’s the image you’re going for and that your fans want.
Michael Brandvold, Michael Brandvold Marketing & Management, Music industry veteran, and host of the popular Music Biz Weekly podcast.
“Release! Music consumption has not stopped during the pandemic. I can tell you first hand that in the last three months I have sent out press releases for over four dozen new releases. It excites me to see artists pushing ahead rather than sitting back in a panic.”
Mike Warner, Work Hard Playlist Hard author
“Everyone still needs music, the editors at the streaming services are still working. I’d say don’t just sit on the music or you might end up waiting and releasing when everyone else who waits releases too and instead of 40,000 new tracks being released every day, you could be releasing your music along with 100,000 new tracks. Just put the music out there and keep creating”.
Andrea Young, Founder and Chief Playlisting Officer at DPG Worldwide:
There’s no one right answer. If you feel strongly you should – or shouldn’t – release your music at this time, I’d go with that. There may be opportunities for artists, including emerging artists, to get a bit more traction now than they might usually get, since some of the major label artists may be delaying their releases for reasons not related to their own feelings about whether they should or shouldn’t. Besides, I say you never know when someone might need to listen to new music to help them get through this time. Speak to them.
Mike Fordham, Director of Playlisting & Streaming Marketing, Primary Wave:
“I think it’s a great idea for artists to release music during the pandemic. Certainly, listeners have more time to explore and enjoy music, but feel that artists can utilize their free time beyond just creating & releasing. Artists can dedicate time and effort towards a comprehensive release plan for their music (such as creating several versions of a song to release, a number of music videos, hiring PR/radio/playlist plugger, etc.). The time also allows artists to fully analyze their fan data with the bevy of data platforms out there.”
Kurt Nishimura, Senior Publicist, DPG Worldwide
“Between the Covid crisis and the BLM movement, we are truly in uncharted waters when it comes to music releasing and promoting. The media landscape has definitely not been spared by the upheaval as staffs from outlets large and small have been furloughed or laid off and outlets such as alternative weeklies are shutting down in alarming numbers. The upside is that music remains an important escape. Streaming and music discovery remain robust activities for people in dire need of entertainment and distraction. Media outlets large and small continue to spotlight up and coming musicians and artists should definitely take advantage of the considerable opportunities that remain to promote their work to these captive audiences.”
Ariel Hyatt, Cyber PR
“Now is a great time to release music. Music heals and we are all interested in healing right now. But I do want to say one thing about releasing music now. During this time I deeply suggest that you take extra time to connect with your fan base – do this by listening to them. You need to make the relationship two ways and show you care and listen. Be a community member, be a friend, be a listener and be a helper first – be a self promoter second. Take the time to connect more deeply and you will be rewarded in ways you probably didn’t know.”
Chelsea Cook, Manager of emerging artist Charel:
For the past few months, I have been working endless hours, alongside the incredibly talented Charel, to perfect his first EP release. Feelings Never Die (ft. Tamara) was supposed to come out on Friday, June 5th due to reaching a point, following a mentally draining worldwide pandemic, of utter happiness. But, oh, how much can change in just one week, right? Charel and I have quickly looked for ways to show our solidarity. We decided that all the proceeds of his following release would be donated to the George Floyd Foundation. Additionally, we chose to donate to The Night Skin Initiative by Mauvey, showing our support towards black creative artists worldwide. As for the release of Feelings Never Did (ft. Tamara), we have decided to push it off indefinitely. There is a time, place, and season for everybody and everything. Music is meant to speak to how we feel in our present history, and in that moment, launching Charel’s artist career felt uneasy.
Lou Humphrey, BSE Recordings label and Manager of Omar Wilson
Music is the Universal Language by which we all understand. It is and can be informative through the narrative of its lyrics ( Omar Wilson’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”). The rhythms of the song can be soothing to the soul ( Sade’s Cherish the Day) and thus allow one an escapism for a few fleeting moments from the drama at hand. Music can heal and is a tool that should be used! I support releasing music now.
Spotify For Artists — in a recent article published on Spotify For Artists, created what feels like eons ago now, (June 1) and doesn’t address the #BLM movement, but does address releasing an album without the ability to tour — one thing Spotify suggests is to build momentum, and they suggest a great way to do this is to release a few singles at a time before the entire album. “One way to build momentum toward an album release is to leave a few more online breadcrumbs, such as singles. Not only does this give listeners more time to get acquainted with the tracks, it lets you showcase more songs that might’ve otherwise not have gotten the spotlight. ‘I’m finding that during this process, some of the artists I’m working with are releasing more singles because there seems to be more response—people are at home on the internet more, people are writing about music more; it seems like there’s more reception,’ Walpole said”
A Washington Post article on releasing music right now mentions a few artists who have delayed releases. Lady GaGa, Sam Smith, Dixie Chicks – in early May all postponed their releases.
There are definitely different opinions out there, and although it might be frustrating, when it comes down to it, the one thought that most have been able to agree upon is, there is no right answer except really, to do what you feel is right for you.
A listing of articles about releasing music now
- MIDEM 2020 Keynote: Kobalt Founder Willard Ahdritz on The New Normal https://www.hypebot.com/
hypebot/2020/06/kobalt- founder-willard-ahdritz-on- the-new-normal-midem-2020- digital-edition-keynote.html
- NPR’s Guy Raz and ‘How I Built This’ interview with Troy Carter (Lady GaGa, Spotify and now Q&A), June 3, 2020. Question regarding releasing and recording music right now starts at 19:15 in the interview https://youtu.be/vxe3txy8DUM
- Music Business Worldwide ‘Our Advice to Independent Artists Right Now’ from the CEO of Believe, Denis Ladegaillerie, April 2, 2020 https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/denis-ladegaillerie-believe-our-advice-to-independent-artists-right-now-is-simple-keep-releasing/
- Spotify For Artists article on ‘Releasing An Album Without The Ability to Tour”, June 1, 2020 https://artists.spotify.com/blog/releasing-an-album-without-the-ability-to-tour?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Read%20more&utm_campaign=This-Week-in-Americana%3A%20-%205/22/20
- Washington Post, To Release Or Delay”, May 14, 2020 https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/to-release-or-delay-musicians-with-new-albums-search-for-the-best-decision-during-the-covid-19-crisis/2020/05/14/3d974d82-9453-11ea-91d7-cf4423d47683_story.html
- Rolling Stone Magazine, “Album Delays Caused By Covid19”, March 30, 2020 https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/album-delays-caused-by-covid-19-973870/
- Music Week, “Why Labels and Artists Should Still Release New Music”, March 30, 2020 https://www.musicweek.com/opinion/read/why-labels-and-artists-should-still-release-new-music-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/079390
- Exclaim! “To Release Or Not To Release”, April 14 2020 http://exclaim.ca/music/article/should_artists_release_their_albums_while_under_coronavirus_lockdown
- Variety Magazine, “To Bump or Not To Bump”, April 2, 2020 https://variety.com/2020/music/news/album-releases-music-biz-split-delay-bump-1203552009/
The New York Times, “Dua Lipa’s Unplanned, Uncertain, Unprecedented Album Launch” , April 11, 2020
- Daily News, “Awolnation’s Aaron Bruno talks tragedy, hope and releasing music during a pandemic”, May 14, 2020
- The Jakarta Post, “To release or not to release? Music’s dilemma over virus”, March 22, 2020
- Insider, “6 musicians who wrote and released music while quarantined at home”, April 16, 2020
- Music News, “Ryan Tedder slams ‘tone-deaf’ artists releasing music during coronavirus pandemic”, April 17, 2020
- Music Gateway, “The Morality of Making and Releasing Music in a Pandemic”, March 3, 2020
- Spinnup, “Is Now a Good Time to be Releasing Music?”, May 6, 2020
Song of the Day: Allen Toussaint 'Yes We Can Can'
Written by Allen Touissant, “Yes We Can Can” is a song ‘advocating unity and tolerance.’ It was also recorded by the Pointer Sisters (RIP Bonnie Pointer, 6/9/2020). Both versions below.